A past disappointment is set to turn into a future triumph under plans to drive the next new car from Volkswagen into the heart of the premium sector.
Sleek styling, lavish equipment and high-grade detailing should allow the next-generation Jetta to compete with B-segment pacesetters from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, believes Volkswagen GB fleet director Vincent Kinner.
“Previous Jetta models never achieved the volumes we aspired to in the UK because they were always regarded as versions of the Golf that came with a boot,” says Kinner.
“That’s not the case anymore. This is a genuine car in its own right – it has different looks and a different interior. With unique underpinnings, it is a completely new vehicle.
“It will go against the 3 Series and A4. It is the same size and has an upmarket feel. We’ve come close to achieving this in previous versions, but this car is a real contender in the executive class and looks like a premium player,” said Kinner.
Speaking to Fleet News as the new range was being previewed to the media in France, he went on: “Comparing the Jetta with the Focus or Astra does not do it justice – with quality, comfort and ride that’s more akin to what you would expect from German premium models, this car is absolutely out of that league.”
VW GB expects the sixth version of its compact saloon to make a signif-icant contribution to ambitions to overtake BMW and Audi as the leading brand in the leasing market.
Not available until May, the range could add around 2,000 units to Volkswagen’s expected fleet volume of up to 99,000 this year.
“Rental companies love this size of car and my hope is that as people downsize into more fuel efficient transport, the Jetta will be high on their consideration lists. Pricing has yet to be fixed, but I expect it to deliver better specification at a cost similar to the Passat,” said Kinner.
“We intend to be number one with user-choosers through product and customer service and while the Passat will spearhead this growth, the Jetta represents our biggest opportunity for additional volume.
"I don’t often get excited about new cars because I’ve been in the business a long time, but we have a potential success story here.”
The introduction of fresh panels breaks the 30-year tradition of using Golf body components and the plan for VW’s compact saloon to be an independent model is underlined by the use of a new multi-link rear suspension system.
An extra 90mm in length allows the car’s longer wheelbase to provide spacious accommodation for five and a whopping 510-litre boot.
Engine choice is between two 1.4-litre TSI petrol units offering 122PS and 160PS and 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre diesel motors with 105PS and 140PS.
Prices are expected to start at £17,000 but the combination of 67mpg and 109g/km tailpipe emissions should make the smallest TDI the most popular fleet choice at from around £18,500.
The Jetta will be offered in S, SE and Sport equipment grades and all 1.6-litre cars will come with BlueMotion gadgetry that includes stop-start and kinetic energy recuperation.
Specifications have still to be finalised, but lead-in cars will come with six airbags, ABS with automatic hazard light activation during harsh braking and ESP, air conditioning, power windows all round and CD stereo.
Both diesels impress on the road with an assured, unruffled ride and the five-speed eco version is a quiet and relaxed motorway cruiser with potential appeal as comfortable long distance transport.
Only marginally smaller than the Passat and with a huge bootspace, the latest Jetta could prove an attractive downsizing proposition.